The spray on my face washed the last bits of conditioner out of my eyes. I could still taste its perfume where the run-off had dribbled on my lips, but the stuff itself was gone. I stepped back and let the water hit my chest, washing away the memory of the day.
That’s when I heard the creak. One of the floorboards in my bedroom makes a distinctive creak when stepped on. Since I live alone, and was obviously not in my bedroom, it could only mean one thing: an intruder.
Every evil fantasy of what could happen to a girl living alone with an intruder in her apartment hit me at once. But I’m not the sort who screams. Kimberly Myers, pull yourself together, I told myself, first assess the situation; you can panic later if you have to.
I got out of the shower without turning it off (no need to alert anybody that I knew they were there) and took stock of the bathroom. Towel: no, I forgot it in the bedroom, along with my robe. I’m doing this naked. Weapon: no, the plumbing stuff was all stored under the kitchen sink, and the blow dryer and curling iron were in my bedroom. I didn’t even have a nail file.
Well, unclothed and unarmed it would be. I pulled the door open and found myself face to face with a man. I started and jumped back. He did the same thing; he looked totally surprised to see me.
“What are you doing in my apartment?” We said it in perfect unison. His hands whipped down to cover himself; he was also dressed the same way I was. My hands did the same. Covered me, not him.
We stared for a few moments. He was a bit taller than me and just as thin; he had blonde hair and blue eyes like me, and even similar facial features. He could be my brother, if I had any brothers.
We both spoke at the same time again. “How did you …” He stopped and let me continue. “… get in here? I just moved in a couple of weeks ago and I made them change the locks beforehand.”
“Me too. This is apartment 9B, 204 Maple.” Okay, that was my address too. Things were getting creepy. He bit his lip, just like I do when I get nervous. “Maybe we should, you know, get decent and discuss this like adults.” He backed down the hall to the bedroom and ducked in. Meanwhile I opened the linen closet and examined the contents. Nothing but hand towels; I took a couple of them and sort of covered myself.
He came out with my bath towel wrapped around his waist and handed me a robe that looked sort of like mine. I turned away and put it on thankfully. Once properly covered I turned back to him.
“What’s going on here? How can we have the same apartment?”
“You got me. It’s like one of those ‘creepy stories’ shows. You aren’t going to grow tentacles and try to eat me, are you?”
“Uh, no. And you’re the only one with anything that looks like a tentacle.” I don’t know what had possessed me to say it; he turned beet red and so did I.
“Look, whoever you are, my name’s Kim – Kim Janssen. Maybe we should go into the bed…” he paused, “…the living room and talk.”
“Your name’s Kim too? Weird; Janssen was my mother’s maiden name.” But I went with him; it beat standing in the hallway.
The living room I walked into was almost mine. It had a bigger TV and some of the ornaments were more boyish; there was a soccer trophy where my field hockey trophy usually stood, but otherwise it could have been mine. I sat down in the chair and he took the love seat. He started to stretch out the way I like to, but thought better of it when his towel shifted.
He bit his lip again. “I’ve been thinking, Kim. Have you ever heard of parallel worlds?”
“Yeah. You think this is one?”
“Maybe. I’ve been working on a story for my English Composition class; I know Professor Johnson doesn’t really like SF, but …”
“… but you’re doing it anyway because you love SF? Me too. I was going to do a romance set on …”
“… a space station, but now you’re having other ideas? Me too.” We both laughed. “But will it be a romance?”
Once again something came over me. I got up and sat down next to him, then leaned in close. “You tell me.”
We spent the next hour or so going over the romantic aspects of our stories. I’m happy to kiss and tell, but if anything else happened it’s none of your business. Then I had one of those major realizations.
“The shower! My water bill’s going to be lethal!” I ran to the washroom and shut it off.
I could tell something was different right away. It wasn’t anything specific, but the room didn’t look quite the same. I knew if I went into the living room I’d find my own furniture and my own trophy, but no other Kim. The place suddenly felt emptier.
There was a hissing spatter behind me, followed by a startled scream. I turned and there was Kim, wearing his now-soaked towel. The shower was on and he looked like a drenched kitten.
“It’s the shower; that’s what opens the gateway. You disappeared when you turned it off.”
I laughed, partly from relief and partly because he looked so pathetic. “Yeah, I guessed. Now what are we going to do about it?”
“Well, at the very least I’m going to invest in a decent bathing suit and set aside more money for water bills.”
“Wonderful ideas, Mr. Janssen. I think I’ll do the same.”